Christmas Peace

by: Elvis Presley

You have to hand it to the folks at BMG -- more than 25 years after the passing of Elvis Presley, they've yet to run out of ways to recycle his back catalog, and just in time for the 2003 holiday season, along comes Christmas Peace, still another repackaging of Presley's seasonable material. Disc one of this two-CD set collects the same 20 Yuletide selections that appeared on the seemingly definitive If Every Day Was Like Christmas collection in 1994, minus the alternate takes that appeared as bonus cuts. This represents nearly the entire Presley Christmas canon, this time in chronological order, with the 1957 Christmas sessions for the most part outshining the slicker but less sincere 1971 cuts, though the loose and surprisingly gritty take on Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas Baby" certainly kicks up the cool factor a few notches. Disc two presents 20 tunes from Elvis' gospel and inspirational sessions, and while most rock fans tend to shy away from this material, the truth is this ranks with Presley's most impassioned and committed material. No matter how far Elvis may have strayed from the Baptist faith of his childhood in his lifestyle, when listening to these recordings it's obvious that this music still spoke to his heart and soul throughout his life, and while this material sure doesn't rock, anyone who loves Elvis as an emotive artist can't help but be moved by his power and sincerity on "Peace in the Valley" or "Mansion Over the Hilltop," and this is a fine introduction to his gospel sessions. If you're an avid Presley collector, you doubtless have everything in this set, which boasts no unreleased (or especially hard to find) material, but the packaging is fine and the remastering clean and pleasing to the ear, making it a better than average starting place for someone wanting to study Elvis' enthusiastic relationship with both Santa Claus and his Savior. ~ Mark Deming

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